September 1, 2012, 12:00 AM

The Taxman Cometh

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Review and expand your abandoned cart e-mail program. Your program should produce at least 3% to 5% of your total online sales. If you're producing less, haven't tested new creative in the last year and/or sent fewer than four messages in your abandoned cart e-mail series, you have a conversion improvement opportunity. Make collecting an e-mail address the first step in the checkout process and store the data once a shopper completes the e-mail entry box (the technology known as Ajax works well for this). You'll have more e-mail addresses to use to bring back shoppers who abandon carts.

Increase the percentage of shoppers who get to checkout. On many sites less than 50% of shoppers with items in their cart ever click the Proceed-to-Checkout button. Start by making that button the largest, most prominent part of your floating cart and/or cart page. Test ways to get an e-mail address associated with a cart, such as offering to save the cart for later or asking for e-mail as a part of a shipping and tax estimator. Some sites have reported doubling sales to consumers who abandon carts simply by getting more e-mail addresses associated with carts.

Maybe an online sales tax will turn out to be a non-event, like Y2K was for us old-timers. On the other hand, if you spend time and money preparing by tightening up the "boring" half of conversion, your worst-case scenario is that you just make money. Your choice.

Larry Kavanagh is chief e-commerce strategy officer of Kalio Inc., an e-commerce platform provider.

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